We recently got a chance to interview Jeff Wallace, the creator of Resto-net.ca, a website based on the health inspections of food establishments in Montreal.
Hi Jeff, how did this project come about?
I was talking with my friend James McKinney about different projects we were working on and he brought up Patinoires ouver tes, another open data project. He offered to put me in touch with Jonathan Brun about other potential open data projects. After a few emails with Jonathan we decided on working with the health inspections data to create Resto-net. It seemed fairly easy to implement and would also have a big impact for users.
Where are you getting your data from? How often do you refresh it?
We are currently gathering data from this Montreal city website. I haven’t quite determined the refresh rate of the site but right now I check for new data twice a month.
If you had a comment about the quality, timeliness or accessibility of the data, what would it be?
To get the data off the above mentioned website, I had to scrape it from the HTML page using some “clever” code. The results in this case are fairly good, but it would have been a lot easier if the data was released in a standardized format such as XML or JSON.
What should the city be doing differently to help ensure restaurants, grocery stores and other venues are clean?
A few ideas to help create more transparency with health inspections is release data in as close to real-time as possible, and to release “general” inspection data (not just infractions) so that users can see the results for both clean and dirty restaurants. Also as mentioned in the previous question, a standardized format would make it much easier to use the data for applications like Resto-net.
Any more features planned for a future release?
James McKinney has done a great job of adding some cool visualizations to the data, and I’m sure there are a few more ways we can explore the data to help people get a better picture. We were also talking about bringing in reviews from other sites so users can compare that data with what we already provide. If anyone out there has an idea they would like to see don’t hesitate to send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’m open to all suggestions!